Agility to Adapt – The Pursuit of Success 0

Homi Tarapore

In a candid interview with All Things Talent, Mr Homi Tarapore, Chief Human Resources Officer at TRUST Group talks about his journey so far, the skills to be sharpened by HR leaders, and the importance of cultural fit at TRUST. He also shares his deep insights on the work-life balance and the future of HR.

Homi Tarapore is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the TRUST Group, India’s leading full-service financial house. Homi is a seasoned HR professional with 20 years of experience of building and leading high-performance teams across various business cycles. Homi has extensive experience in the service industry and broad experience in multiple aspects of HRM and Human Behavior. He has worked with start-ups, entrepreneurs, large Indian conglomerates, leading corporate houses. He is known to build people enabling practices for financial service houses and leading retail conglomerates. His expertise lies in adding value during all phases of growth, developing talent and engaging talent. Before joining TRUST, he has held leadership positions in organisations like HDFC Securities, Aditya Birla Retail Ltd., WNS and many more. He is an alumnus of the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS).

JOURNEY

Q. You have a rich experience of nearly 20 years in strategic interventions, talent management and operational governance. How did you carve out a niche for yourself in this industry? What has been the most remarkable professional experience that helped you evolve into a leader?

A. Carving out a niche starts with self-discovery and identifying what works in harmony with your strengths and belief systems. It was the same for me. Right at the beginning of my career as I tossed around in different corporate experience, I discovered I work in great tandem with entrepreneurs. Carving out a niche means spotting a useful area that no one else has spotted. It might be as simple as being great at spreadsheets or report writing, and mine was working in an uncharted, unstructured environment and discovering solutions that evolve as a best practice for that business and for that company.

So when you ask how I carved out a niche for myself in this industry, well this is all it took! I say “all,” it was, in fact, a lot of work and immensely demanding. When I set out I had a choice to make; I either choose a niche or find my niche, and I chose the latter. I worked with start-ups, I worked with entrepreneurs, I worked with Large Indian Conglomerates, Leading Corporate Houses, switched into roles from being a TA Specialist to heading Human Resources, to wearing the CXO hat specializing in change management. And as I assembled one experience after another, I created a niche of creating meaning of work for talent and engaging talent.

With 20 years of professional experience, I can share many stories of the great learning experience and some edge of the seat moments, but when you ask of the most remarkable professional experience, I am a little biased to my first corporate experience. The experience set foundations to many of my professional behaviours and it snowballed into this journey. It taught me that time is of essence, relationships go a long way, and that empowerment is personal accountability!

This is hence the most important life lesson I can share today; at all times stay in a constant state of DISCOVERY; whether it is introspective self-discovery or diagnostic and creative discovery of solutions.

LEADERSHIP

Q. As someone who holds experience of working in a large- scale complex environment, which set of skills do you think HR leaders should possess which makes them highly efficient and competent?

A. This is a subject which finds its way to corporate discussions almost always and much has been said on this; listing top 10 traits, top 5 skills and a hoard of other click-baiting articles! In my opinion, though, this is what it all comes down to; as leaders, we need to align ourselves with the fact that the markets and economy are evolving at a pace much faster than a decade back. You had the time to anticipate, acclimatize, assess and respond to a change. Today, it all happens in matters of months, sometimes days and is mostly a click away. The first skill in this era that all leaders including leaders in HR need to sharpen is the ‘agility to adapt’.

You will find that another skill one has to master as a Leader in Human Resources is having a very strong foundation in concepts and know- how of organization behaviour and not just in the dialects of theories. Human Behaviour is a complex myriad that when brought in a group setting, scales up to a very different game. Emotions are contagious, and those can work up nature and nurture traits of each individual. Hence, understanding of human behaviour, organizational behaviour in the context of business is very crucial.

In addition to the more traditional people and communication- focused mindset, HR will need an analytical and data-focused mindset in the future. There is a need to develop strong analytical skills which are both qualitative and quantitative in dimension, helping the management with predictive diagnostics and solutions. HR leaders also need to evolve their strong communication skills into powerful conversational skills. I have observed that most effective HR leaders are strong communicators and influencers. They are able to provide guidance on a range of HR issues and influence new ways of doing things to improve the organization’s operations. But the key to strong qualitative analytics lies in powerful conversation skills.

ORGANISATION INITIATIVES

Q. How important is it at TRUST to articulate and elaborate on the company’s central philosophy with the recruitment of the right people that can support customer-centric culture?

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A. The service-profit chain is one of the earliest theories establishing that when you put employees first, they’ll do right by your customers – and the business benefits in the end. It becomes more relevant in service industries and more so in the BFSI industry. Our businesses are based on relationships – people do business with people they like! While technology and process are expectations of enablement for the customer, our clients look towards relationship and expertise when they make investment decisions. At TRUST this is what we hold close to the central philosophy with recruitment. At the centre of our work universe lays our people and we work every day ensuring that the right people onboard us in our journey.

Organisational Initiatives

Rather than trying to set up a strict set of rules that might not stretch with our growth over time, we’ve decided to rely on our ‘Culture Fit’ philosophies instead. We approach culture fit in a collective and unified manner, and one needs to step outside of departmental lines and openly communicate cultural fit needs, the entire workforce can directly focus on improving the company with better hires.

At TRUST we are in the business where people are the key assets and relationships is the key driver. We value our relationship with our clients, employees, consultants and recruitment partners.

These stakeholders have lived through our growth journey, they understand our value system and hence, they are valued in sharing their feedback, references and recommendations. This kind of referral is important as the stakeholders feel invested in our people philosophy.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Q. You have a rich experience of nearly 20 years in strategic interventions, talent management and operational governance. How did you carve out a niche for yourself in this industry? What has been the most remarkable professional experience that helped you evolve into a leader?

A. The right strategic approach to change management is the most simple, “Clarity of thought and clarity of action”. Change is mostly mammoth (in perception) and intimidating. It is crucial, therefore to break this into smaller bite-size phases and target only the stakeholders of each of those specific phases. Communicate effectively and efficiently by optimizing the communication; keeping the channel clean and uncluttered for only the eligible audience.

When managing change, one has to understand that change management is a journey. Change is inevitable and very powerful, and businesses and markets proactively adapt to change. One needs to facilitate smooth transitioning, by being constantly in touch with the influencers and ensuring that they are aligned with the thought behind the change and the action that will be taken. As HR Leaders one needs to understand that emotion is contagious and during a change, it is very important to control this part by having your influencers aligned to the change who will maintain the positivity in the emotional thermostat of the room! That being said preparing for change starts with clarity of thought and clarity of action.

Once this is set, build your way into achieving phase by phase accomplishment of the planned action, with some early quick wins to keep the initiators and influencers aligned to the intent and approach of change. One needs to develop a powerful communication approach to ensure stability during change and empowerment is a personal responsibility of each individual and teams.

COMPANY CULTURE

Q. What are some of your good tips for achieving work-life balance in today’s competitive work culture? What are some of the initiatives you’ve undertaken at TRUST to build an employee-focused culture?

A. The pursuit of work-life balance has been our generation’s version of pursuing eternal youth! I am however of the opinion that work-life balance is a flawed hypothesis because when you seek to balance it, your foundational approach is that they are two exclusive elements. In real life, work is an integrated part of one’s life and identity. The problem is not working, the problem is overwork and burnout. A magical finish line has been ingrained in our minds and we are in a constant chase for that accomplishment! This chase leads to overwork, burnouts and stress. One has to unlearn this finish line and understand that work does not come with an expiry date!

Breathe! That is my tip for achieving fulfilment. Live in the moment and you will enjoy your work, you will make your day successful. Learn your time scale and adapt around it, for example, if you have discovered that you are a last-minute manager, start and end your day with meetings, and line up your time-sensitive task list in the middle of the day. Live in the moment and you will enjoy your workout or family-time, or reading a book; accomplish what is in hand at that moment and then move on to something else! If you will be in a constant chase to achieve everything you will face burnout.

Each morning wake up and spin the wheel – ME, WE and WORK, find the combination that best suits that moment of your life, live that moment to its fullest, learn from that day. And next day repeat! At TRUST we focus on enabling these choices for our employees. The foundation of this is management intent towards happy employees. We structure work both individually and in teams such that the most effective results are achieved. The work hours are flexible while being optimized for smooth business functioning.

As a policy in the continual improvement of working towards meaningful programs around learning and development, and an array of events around hobbies that allow employees to discover what vibes best with them and pursue it!

FUTURE OF HR

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Q. Today, megatrends like mobile, e-commerce, and big data are replaced by new behemoths like blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. In your opinion, in this age of constant disruption how pertinent is it for a leader to reinvent and transform continuously in the face of challenges?

A. Human Beings are in a constant state of discovery hence new trends are something which we have witnessed since the beginning of time, with technology permeating into our systems so strongly, the only change that has happened in this equation of “out with the old in with the new” is TIME!

The rate at which new technology is developing reinvention is not a choice but a mandate! And these changes are so powerful and strong that one has to adapt to it or be left behind.

Pertinence hence is not of the intent of reinvention and transformation but the agility to adapt to the change! Businesses and its functions that are obsessed with customer experience are on a journey of continual improvement. They are constantly trying to better their processes, systems, products to impact a meaningful experience to their customers.

The change will never be over. There will always be change and always more to do!

But in these times of constant disruptions, I would suggest that be very sure of what you stand for, what is your vision for your customer’s experience and then choose the technology which enables this vision. After all, one does not need to embark on all ships that set sail!

WORKPLACE DIVERSITY

Q. Companies are grappling with how to address the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. Do you think by giving the head of HR a place in the C-suite companies can make great strides in stamping out harassment?

A. Sexual Harassment is a serious issue and while we have come a long way, there are still serious problems that are deeply engrained into workplace cultures. And I believe that as a Leader whether you are a team leader, division leader, or CEO, you need to have a visible stance on this issue! It should be a well-engrained belief system (beyond policies and processes) that misconduct and sexual harassment are unacceptable and will have consequences.

Processes and policies are only enabling if the employees believe that their leader will stand up against misconduct and a fair consequence will be served.

Workplace Diversity

HR Heads can be facilitators of the process, and ensure fair investigation & action. However, only and only a collective, visible, non-negotiable stance against sexual harassment across all levels of leadership will be effective in stamping out harassment at the workplace.

In my opinion, a good enabler to leadership stance is that the culture at the workplace sets expectations of acceptable behaviour! For instance, most workplaces have their fair share of jokes and light-hearted jibes. It’s important though that you recognise that it’s never okay to make ‘flippant’ comments, and even if the person making the remarks doesn’t think that they’re offensive or serious, it doesn’t hold up as a defence.

And I have sensed we often question as to what is acceptable behaviour, so when I am engaging with my colleagues in this discussion, my general rule of the thumb is that evaluate if the comment/action would have deemed unfit if the recipient was you or someone from your first circle of relations (parent, sibling, spouse, and child). Whatever is unacceptable to your first circle is unacceptable behaviour.

As a Leader you need to set the expectations of unacceptable behaviour, walk the talk and hold a clear stance; tackle inappropriate behaviour head-on, regardless of the intention.

Quick Facts About Homi Tarapore

Hometown: Mumbai

Things He Values Most: Simplicity and Humility

Passionate Pursuits: Story Telling and Travelling

Greatest Influence Growing Up: My mother

Sports He Follows: Cricket, Tennis and Mixed Martial Arts (UFC)

Favourite Books: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is an all-time favourite and currently enjoying my coffee with “Nine Lies About Work” by Buckingham and Goodall.

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